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Personal Development
winter 2021

Coming Soon: You 2.0

Upgrade, evolve—whatever you call it, willingness to change is essential for success
Written by: Louis Carr

We’ve all got our own stories about how the coronavirus pandemic impacted our lives, but we have all shared one common experience over the past 18 months—the need to reinvent ourselves.


Parents had to brush off their math and English skills and become tutors to help their homebound children with their classes. Teachers had to become broadcast experts to keep the attention of remote Zoom students. Business leaders had to learn how to manage people and operations remotely.


We were all forced to change in ways we might not otherwise have chosen. And you know what? While some of that change has been hard, sometimes really hard, some of it has been great too. We have grown and we have discovered new skills and new opportunities.


While I wouldn’t wish hardship on anyone, I am glad for the way the COVID-19 challenge has made everyone aware of the need for reinvention, because I believe that the ability to pivot, to upgrade, to evolve—however you want to describe it—is crucial for success, in both our professional and personal lives.


After all, we live in a world of constant change. Technology keeps driving invention and innovation. Just think about how the likes of Airbnb, Uber and streaming have upended traditional industries like travel and entertainment.


The days when you could graduate and find a job you’d stay in, doing pretty much the same thing, until you received your retirement watch are long gone. According to one study, these days the average person will have a dozen different jobs during their working life.


Now, I’ve worked at BET Networks for 35 years, but I have gone through a number of reinventions in that time. On the business side, like everyone else in media, we have grappled with the huge changes in the industry and how people consume content. As part of that, we have had to change the way we present ourselves to advertisers. We have learned how to mine data to present a compelling, statistics-driven case for our ability to connect with influential consumers.


Ready and willing
Personally, I have reinvented myself as a leader. I came to realize that not everyone had the capacity to work as long and as hard as I could: I needed to be less of a hard-ass! I learned that some people respond better to a slightly softer approach. That didn’t mean I eased up on my commitment to excellence, but I changed the way I went after it.


Putting aside how the world around us is ever-changing, forcing us to adapt, there is change on the inside too. You’re not the same person at 40 that you were at 25, even if you can still get into an old pair of pants.


Change is inevitable. We all have to be ready and willing to change to better fit the new circumstances, opportunities and challenges that come along. We need to be ready to reinvent ourselves.


Now, personality-wise, some of us are more open to change than others. Personally, I enjoy it. In fact, my team members sometimes tell me I like change just for the sake of change. Maybe, but I believe there are benefits to being open to new situations and new ways of doing things.


Sometimes change is forced on us—a pandemic, a health crisis, a divorce, a job termination. Sometimes we can see it coming and prepare—kids grow up and leave home, our manager’s retirement leaves his position open. Either way, we can maximize the potential if we choose to embrace the need to reinvent ourselves.


Here are some keys for reinventing yourself:
TAKE STOCK
Strange as it may sound, a winning attitude starts with letting go. I’m not talking about giving up, but recognizing that we just have to accept that things have changed, and we need to as well. Refusing to acknowledge that things are different isn’t going to help. Don’t sit on your hands or drag your feet. Being resistant will mean you are reluctant to do what you may need to, to make the most of the new situation.
We just have to accept that things have changed and we need to as well.
BE POSITIVE
Letting go of something may be hard, but it also means you have hands free to take hold of something else—and that could be really good! Stopping something doesn’t have to be bad; it may mean a new opportunity. Say, for instance, roadworks mean you have to take a detour on the way to work… well, maybe you’ll end up discovering an enjoyable new route. Change your attitude. Look for the positives.
MAKE ADJUSTMENTS
We may be more comfortable doing things the way we have always done them, but we are all more capable of making adjustments than we might recognize. If you injure your writing hand, you’ll soon learn to write with the other. No, it may not be as neat, but you will be able to do what you need to do. If necessity is the mother of invention, as the old saying goes, then adaptability is the father of reinvention.
FIND MEANING
Embracing a new reality, however much unwanted, brings with it new possibilities. Losing my mother was one of the hardest experiences in my life, but I recognized that it prepared and positioned me to be there to help someone going through the same thing. Sometime after Mom’s passing, on one of my regular airport trips, I came upon a young worker there I recognized who seemed troubled. When I asked her what was up, she told me her mom had died recently.


“I’m sorry to hear that,” I told her. “Now you are a member of a club no one wants to join, but we all get a card for if we live long enough.” We spent some minutes talking, during which time I was able to express my sympathy and offer some encouragement.


Open to new possibilities, we might even make an unexpected discovery. For years, I had no interest in visiting Europe; I was too busy working hard and enjoying it. Why waste time traveling? But then I did and, guess what, I fell in love with Paris and found a whole new world that, actually, didn’t diminish my work life but somehow enriched it even more.


Evaluate yourself

Reinvention involves reintroducing yourself. So you need to know what sets you apart from the other candidates for that new job. What do you bring to the table? What is your unique value proposition? Why should people keep coming to you with their business rather than going somewhere else? Reinvention requires that we be willing to take a hard look at what we are and what we do, and determine whether that’s enough for the new circumstances.


This isn’t just true at work. What about at home? Are you meeting the needs of your spouse or your children, or are they looking elsewhere because you have been running on autopilot in your relationships?


Embrace changes

Being open to change is the first step, but it’s not enough. You have then got to do what is necessary to better fit the next context. Maybe that means developing some new skills or making other changes, some of which might cause others to raise their eyebrows and wonder about you.


When I was in my 30s, my doctor warned me that I was at risk from the health problems that had taken too many members of my family much too young—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes. I had to do things differently if I wanted to live longer, he said.


That meant saying no to things like pizza, milk and ice cream (OK, I cheat on that one a couple times a year) and yes to more exercise. I did Pilates and yoga before they were popular, getting teased by some of my friends. But to this day, I’m almost 20 pounds lighter than the 185 I carried when I ran track in college.


Find help
You will probably need some help in shaping the new you 2.0. Someone who can come alongside and challenge and encourage you, like the athletic coaches that helped me find the best in me when I ran competitively.


When looking for a mentor, you don’t just want someone who knows their stuff. You want someone who sees your strengths and weaknesses, and knows how to help you work on both, but who also believes in you more than you do.


Reinvention is always going to be a little scary, because you are venturing into the unknown. You could find yourself being stretched in ways and areas you would not have chosen.


For instance, my wife, Diane, damaged her ankle and ended up with her foot in a cast for three months, last year. This happened in the middle of COVID-19, when health precautions meant we were unable to get any outside help. So I became her primary caretaker and the domestic help.


I was glad to be able to look after her, of course. Shopping, cooking, all that kind of thing; I really got a renewed appreciation for all she did to keep our home running so smoothly. And, actually, I enjoyed my chance to do all that. However, I must have managed so well that, just recently, with things having returned to normal, she joked that maybe I should keep cooking on a more regular basis… not something I had in mind!


This last anecdote may seem small, but it actually sums up the whole reason for being ready and willing to reinvent ourselves. If we stick with what’s comfortable, we are never forced to stretch and to learn and to grow. And that keeps us from realizing our full potential. Not only do we lose out on what might have been, but so do those around us.


Finding your you 2.0 is all about our WayMaker vision: “Grow your life and change the world.”


Reinvention is always going to be a little scary, because you are venturing into the unknown.